Messages from Ron

The Plight of the Uyghurs, Part 2

On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I invited several Christian leaders to speak about persecution through personal testimonies, professional reports and observations. These stories highlighted abuse and triumph. On my previous blog, you can watch that service at Every Nation Church NYC.

The extraordinary panel spoke broadly of the perilous situation, as 245 million believers are living in areas that hurt, harass and harness believers. However, our speakers also spent significant time on the topic of religious freedom and the right to worship for all faiths. 

Bill Clark, on the panel, is a scholar and activist for the Uyghur people group in the province of Xinjiang, in Northwest China. I admit, I was not acutely aware of the horrifying human rights violations this People Group is currently experiencing. As Bill shared his heart for the Uyghurs, I knew he cared about religious freedom, not just for Christians, but for everyone. I was appalled that this people group of 11 million is facing what can only be described as a present-day genocide. 

On the eve of our event for the Persecuted Church, Bill and several of his Uyghur friends, came to Manhattan to discuss the realities in Xinjiang, where this atrocity is happening. What they shared has been a topic covered by the New York Times and others. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, described the suffering of the Uyghurs as, “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.” 


Every Nation Church NYC held a dinner for several Uyghur scholars

Uyghurs are indigenous to East Turkistan, which China occupied in 1949 and transformed into what they now call the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Chinese government has systematically oppressed these people because they are Sunni Muslims and speak a language related to Turkish. As a result of uprisings in response to the increasing oppression of the government, they have been unjustly labeled as terrorists or religious extremists. In 2017 persecution towards this people group was ramped up by the Communist Party of China through a massive round-up of ordinary citizens into newly built reeducation camps. 

“Everything that makes us unique has been treated as an abnormality,” said Dr. Rishat Abbas, one of our guests. Rishat, an Ohio State graduate, has been based in the U.S. for decades and works as a pharmacist. His father, a prominent Uyghur intellectual was Bill Clark’s mentor when he was in Xinjiang doing his Ph.D. research. Rishat’s sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas is one of the many individuals detained in a facility which the Communist Party is touting as reeducation centers.

The stories I heard that night broke my heart. 

According to Rishat and backed up by numerous documents and accounts from Uyghur eyewitnesses, these camps hold an estimated 1.8  million Uyghurs, approximately 10% to 20% of the Uyghur populace. Detainees are made to divest anything that makes them culturally and religiously unique. 

They are tortured and forced to live a life that will align them with Chinese culture. They are forced to eat pork and act incompatible to their faith. They are made to learn the official standard language of China, Mandarin, and internalize Chinese propaganda by reciting songs and slogans. “Cultural genocide,” is how our Uyghur guests described it.  

The Communist Party has rationalized the imprisonment of countless Uyghurs in these facilities, falsely claiming they are endangered by “harmful influence in religious extremism and violent terrorist thoughts.” But in fact, their only crime is being a Uyghur. 

Our guests, who for the past two years have not talked to their loved ones for fear that the Chinese government will harm their families, exposed horrific policies forced on their people. 

Making our hearts sink, even more, was finding out about “Chinese pairing” where Communist Party cadres stay at the homes of Uyghur families. Often, these “volunteers” sleep in the bedrooms of the families, where the man of the house—father and husband—are absent, detained in one of the camps. 

There are also appalling reports of organs being harvested from Uyghurs and sold as “halal” organs to rich Arab clients in the Middle East

These are horrifying issues that demand action, especially from those of us who declare the gospel and worship a God whose very Name is the definition of love. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed. The suffering of the Uyghurs is as significant, relevant and urgent as the problems in our very own communities.

“We are very upfront about being followers of Jesus,” Bill told us that night. “Jesus told us to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” 

At this very moment, millions of our neighbors need our help and we have a God-given mandate to stand with them both in prayer and action. 

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The Uyghur Humans Rights Policy Act of 2019 is a bill that directs various U.S. government bodies to prepare reports on China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkic ethnic group. I encourage you to call the representative in your district to take action and support this critical legislation that will mandate transparency and create accountability from the Chinese government on how they treat the Uyghurs. Click here for the contact information of your congressman or congresswoman. 

WHERE TO PLACE: Lindsay Maizland, with Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a great summary article on the Uyghurs. Reading this gives a good background.

FOR More information visit the Uyghur Human Rights Project website.

SOURCES: 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/campaign-11192019152349.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/china-harvesting-organs-of-uighur-muslims-china-tribunal-tells-un-2019-9

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/17/china-is-harvesting-organs-from-detainees-uk-tribunal-concludes

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/649

https://www.ned.org/defenders-of-human-and-religious-rights-in-china-to-receive-2019-democracy-award-on-30th-anniversary-of-tiananmen-massacre/

https://bitterwinter.org/the-case-of-dr-gulshan-abbas-one-year-later/

https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/even-chinas-model-uyghurs-arent-safe/

The Plight of the Uyghurs and Persecuted Church Sunday

According to Open Doors International, there are 245 million Christian believers worldwide who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. In the past year alone, more than 4,000 Christians have been murdered and 3,150 believers were detained (without trial), arrested, sentenced or imprisoned simply for professing their belief.

This reality must lead us to ask, “Why should we care and what can we do?” We sought to answer these questions and more during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

November 3, 2019 was designated a special day by a host of Christian Ministries. Through the partnership of Every Nation Church NYC and Jordan Lewis Missions, we hosted several extraordinary leaders who shared their experience with religious persecution. 

Click here to see the presentation from the following leaders:

  • Wendy Wright: President of Christian Freedom International
  • Bob Fu: Imprisoned Christian, human rights activist, awarded many awards, including the prestigious NED by Congresswomen Pelosi.
  • Simon and Lydia Suh: Rescuer of hundreds of North Koreans.
  • Yesupadam Paidipamula: “Untouchable” from India, Christian apostle to India and 40 nations. 
  • Bill Clark: Expert and Advocate for the Uyghur people of China.

Here’s the brief on what these distinguished guests had to say about the persecuted Christians worldwide.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, shared how things in China have become more dangerous for believers. Bob described it as, “… a war against the faith, especially Christians, a war against children’s Sunday school and religious education, and a war against the rule of law.”  He and others call it, “the worst persecution since the end of the cultural revolution 40 years ago.” But Bob’s faith, as always, is unwavering. “On the other hand, there is hope… knowing that according to God’s plan, even the persecutors would serve as the servants of the Lord.”

Wendy Wright, formerly the president of Christian Freedom International, an organization that works in 10 nations, provides encouragement and tangible support to Christians suffering persecution. She encouraged all to pray for persecuted Christians, that they be strengthened in their faith in Jesus Christ. She also urged us to advocate for their welfare through our government leaders.

Bill Clark challenged us to pray for and support the Uyghurs, a beautiful people group of mostly Sunni Muslims. Bill was accompanied by new friends to our services; Uyghurs academics, researchers and PhD scientists, who are passionately informing the world about the plight of their people back in China. 

To our shock, millions of Uyghurs are being watched closely by a police state in China’s Xinjiang Province. They are stripped of their rights to live out their culture, faith and any other practices that make them a unique and distinctive people group. Bill brought to light this issue that’s not getting much media attention until recently — forced incarceration of 1-3 million Uyghurs living in reeducation-concentration camps where they are brainwashed and tortured, simply for being Uyghurs and Muslims. Bill challenged our congregations to stand up for our fellow Uyghurs. He mentioned the Good Samaritan, and how we are to reply to Jesus’ provoking question, “Who is our neighbor?” Bill also asked, “how can we show compassion?” 

Christians must speak against injustice committed to anyone. The detailed story of the Uyghurs will be on my next blog post. This is an issue for everyone everywhere.

Yesupadam committed his life to Christ at the age of 23. When he was a young untouchable, 11 years old,  the lowest of the Indian caste system, he fainted on the roadside due to starvation. Because of his social class, he was ignored and left as dead. Remarkably, a Christian missionary from Canada who was driving his family in a jeep, saw him on the roadside, picked him up and drove him to the nearest hospital.  The humble Canadian missionaries cared for him, and paid his bills for the next two weeks. Thanks to them, Yesupadam was not only saved physically, but heard the gospel and was saved eternally. The name, Yesupadam, which means “Jesus’ foot,” has manifested through his life for decades.

“It’s been difficult being untouchable,” Yesupadam shared. “But I had an amazing encounter with Jesus.” Now, Yesupadam is facing a different persecution as he’s ministering in a nation that has become increasingly hostile toward Christianity and other religions. Nevertheless, nothing stops him from loving and caring for so many in a nation of more than 1 billion. 

Yesupadam, has advanced God’s kingdom of love all over his nation through planting thousands of congregations, building orphanages, hospitals and a plethora of Love-n-Care Ministry Centers across his nation. Love-n-Care, his ministry, has planted hundreds of churches in southeastern India, trained more than 2,000 ministers and blessed countless impoverished children, disabled young adults, the elderly and more around the world. The genesis of his powerful story could be traced to an act of a Good Samaritan. His life story has been captured in his biography by Terri Whitaker: Yesupadam, Reaching India’s Untouched.

Working in the darkest, most dangerous nation in the world, Simon Suh’s ministry has rescued hundreds of North Koreans out of the hermit kingdom. Along with starting churches, the rescue operations were extremely dangerous. In North Korea, persecution is severe, most likely the worst in the world. Sharing the gospel or even owning Bibles are capital offenses. 

Remarkably, the woman Simon would eventually marry, was one of the relatively few who found a way out. “By God’s miracle, she escaped,” Simon said. With the help of Simon’s ministry, she was able to rescue her brother and her mother out of the peril of North Korea. Though they have painful stories, they are safe and working for the glory of God. Lydia now owns a design shop where she makes extraordinary clothing for people from all walks of life, including celebrities and professional athletic teams.

In our journey of faith, the Word of God assures us of a finish line filled with celebration, one where the Gospel wins, the nation’s become God’s and Christ alone is exalted. Until then, many of our fellow believers live in perilous times as they are tested, tried and refined by fire.

As Rev. 12:11 proclaims, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

Our hopes and prayers are that the faith of the persecuted faithful continue to inspire us to be fearless, steadfast and more devoted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May we always remember to pray for and stand with them until that glorious finish. 


The Reality and Evidence of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single event upon which the truth of Christianity hangs. This resurrection is historical, but also deeply personal. For 30 years, especially on Easter Sundays, I have preached on the truth of that awesome event and how anyone can be changed forever. Recently I have been overwhelmed by the evidence of this historically verifiable fact and personally that God’s Son loves me enough to die and rise again to rescue me from my sin and shame. Join me as we walk through the power and reality of the resurrection: May it be as real to you today as it was to the disciples 2,000 years ago!

The image above is the photographic negative of the face on the Shroud of Turin. Normally, image inversion places the shadows in the wrong spots on the photographic negative, but with the shroud face, it places them in the right spots. This in and of itself is inexplicable and some say, miraculous. Additionally, you can see the blood stains from the crown of thorns wounds, the outdent of the phylactery in the middle of the forehead, the swollen cheek, the dislocated nose, and the part of the beard that was pulled out. Mary and Dr. Alan Whanger (Medical Doctor and retired Professor at Duke University) and Dr. Tom D’Muhala (Nuclear Physicist and original member of the STURP/1978) have educated me on the veracity of the Shroud, that it’s neither a myth or forgery, but belonged to Jesus of Nazareth. I mention this in the message without making this the focus.

On Having a Whole Soul

This past Sunday, I spoke for the Every Nation NYC West side service, but unfortunately never finished my last three points. After a few requests, I’ve decided to send this out by blog, since it holds important truth for all of us.

 
I Thessalonians 5:23-24 says,
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
In these verses and several other places in the Bible, God makes it clear that it’s His will for our spirit, soul and body to be sanctified. “Sanctified” means to be set apart, to belong to God. This is not a future sanctification, but something for the here and now in all three areas of our being. 
 
What does this look like for the soul? The soul consists of our mind, will, and emotions. Our spirit man (also called the inner man and the heart) and our soul are referred to in Hebrews 4:12 as distinctly different. 
 
Scripture has much to say about walking, living and being led by the Spirit, yet many Christians tend to live out of their souls, in particular through their emotions or strength of will.
 
When we live God’s way, we avoid so much wreckage and pain. Yet far too many persist in the path of walking, living and being led by their own soul. As the country song by Dierks Bentley says, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”  Countless mistakes stem from living through our emotions, not to mention when we limit our lives to natural reasoning, we fail to see the plans and purposes of God (Proverbs 3:5-7).
 
The soul, while an extremely important part of our lives, needs to be recognized through the lens of our own brokenness and depravity. All of us will have to deal with this complicated part of our identity with its many fractures, cracks and failings. 
 
Like the transplant medic team that dropped a human heart on the airport runway, too many have been heartbroken and injured by others in their soul — hurt, dropped, cheated, and devastated by the hands of others or through the hardship of life itself. 
 
In addition, too many Christian believers break their own souls. We make decisions to hurt or destroy ourselves. Proverbs 6:32 describes one example of this, 
Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 
For our souls to get whole, we need to commit to three long-term, lifelong processes. There’s no short cuts in soul healing, no pill-a-day, no yoga position, no new boat to buy or weed to smoke that makes the soul well. It is a lifelong process with three commitments that will make a substantial difference. 
 
Commitment 1
The first commitment involves what we believe about change and healing. We must believe it’s possible to change, to be restored and to be made whole. So often Jesus asked a struggling pilgrim, “Do you believe?” (Matthew 9:27-29) He asked this in order to see whether they had faith and reliance on God. 
 
Neurosciences are now helping us understand Scriptural truths indicating the brain can and does change, regardless of age or circumstances. Neuroplacticity as a science underscores the reality that our beliefs and connection to God’s word (Romans 12:1-3) have a transformational impact on our wellness and future.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus’ mission statement made it clear:
“He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and … to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”
There comes that time when our soul wreckage, inappropriate soul ties, and psychological meltdowns come into the presence of Jesus the Healer, and we are touched, restored and changed. You are no “Humpty Dumpty” shattered and hopeless. You’re a child of God and healing is your inheritance since the Lord is your Shepherd and He restores your soul (Psalm 23:3). Believing this is possible is the beginning.
 
Commitment 2
Our second commitment is to the daily reading of the word of God. More change can occur through this than is imaginable! The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). The bible is not just an ancient history book. It’s alive! 
 
My wonderful wife, Lynette, encourages me to eat food that’s alive…like a raw carrot, active yogurt cultures, nuts and seeds. I asked why chicken nuggets don’t count!! Turns out the answer is a double blow — chickens are dead and then they are fried!  
 
Similarly, when we spend our days reading “Pop” Magazines, it’s much like eating chicken nuggets. Sure it’s fun to catch up on the stars, but it can also mean we are neglecting the star of God’s choice.. you!  The word of God in our lives every day will have a dramatic impact on our souls.
 
So every morning at our home we eat living things like spinach, avocados, yogurt, probiotics, oils, green powder, and more, all put in a blender for a colorful green shake. Sounds nasty but it’s life-giving and I’m learning to love it. We are also committed to daily reading of God’s Word so our souls can come alive, just like our bodies.
 
Commitment #3
The third commitment is our lifelong focus on the actual “work” of soul health. We cut off things leading to damage, much like we put on sun block at the beach to avoid harmful rays. We stay away from damaging thoughts, people or ideas, anything that attempts to harm and damage our souls, or grieve the Holy Spirit.

 

Solid christian counseling, therapy and connecting with healthy believers is beyond important, it’s vitally essential. Unfortunately, not everything can be healed through private prayer; some issues in our lives are healed through the community of the church. Our churches have adopted a great program created through Jack Hayford’s church (Church on the Way), called Cleansing Stream Ministries. Twice a year we offer these 8-12 week classes. It’s work, but the healing that comes is beyond worth it. And more than 800 New Yorkers have been through this program in our church, Every Nation NYC (EveryNationNYC.org).

 

Through this type of ministry we learn the safety of exposing our pains and weaknesses in a secure way. As Henry Nouwen said, “Vulnerability, letting go, surrendering, crying, mourning and grief are not in the devil’s dictionary.”

 

These three commitments are all part of moving on and healing. It is a process that takes time, but in the end our soul begins to “get it.” Like working a muscle group, strength comes over time. Our souls no longer rule or dominate but begin to rejoice and respond to the Spirit of God who lives within.

 

As King David so often spoke to his soul, so we should as well, as he does in Psalm 103:1-5: 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” 
 
Even so, may your soul be satisfied, healed, renewed and restored to all God has for you.